U.S. designates Houthis as terrorist organization amid Red Sea attacks

Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said the United States has designated Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI
1 of 3 | Jake Sullivan, White House national security adviser, said the United States has designated Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization. File Photo by Al Drago/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The United States on Wednesday designated Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist organization for their ongoing targeting of shipping vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced the designation against the Iran-backed Houthis, also known as Ansarallah, saying it would make it harder for the organization to access financial markets and fund their operations.


"Over the past months, Yemen-based Houthi militants have engaged in unprecedented attacks against the United States military forces and international maritime vessels operating in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden," Sullivan said in a White House statement. "These attacks fit the textbook definition of terrorism.

"They have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardizing global trade, and threatened freedom of navigation. The United States and the international community have been united in our response and in condemning these attacks in the strongest terms."


Sullivan noted that the designation will not take effect for 30 days to allow for "humanitarian carve outs" to reduce the impact on civilians in Yemen.

"The people of Yemen should not pay the price for the actions of the Houthis," Sullivan said. "We are sending a clear message: Commercial shipments into Yemeni ports on which Yemeni people rely for food, medicine and fuel should continue and are not covered by our sanctions."

He added that if the Houthis cease their attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the United States "will immediately re-evaluate this designation."

Speaking to reporters on background Wednesday, a senior administration official explained to reporters via teleconference that the move is to pressure the Houthis to cease their attacks on shipping vessels with the ultimate goal of convincing them "to de-escalate and bring about a positive change in behavior."

"If the Houthis cease their attacks, we can consider delisting this designation," the official said. "We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the group's actions to inform our position going forward."

The Houthis, in a statement carried by their press agency, condemned the designation, and criticized the United States and its allies over its support for Israel's war.


Meanwhile, the government of Yemen welcomed the U.S. decision.

"Ever since the Houthi coup in 2014, and in the absence of a real deterrent for them, the Houthis have not stopped their terrorism, and crimes against Yemenis," its foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The Government emphasizes that in order to bring peace, the Houthi militias must abandon their terrorist behavior and their dependence on the Iranian regime, renounce violence, and accept peace initiatives."

The move came as the United States military completed its fourth round of airstrikes against Houthi positions in Yemen in response to their attacks in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7. U.S. officials said the strikes targeted a building that contained ballistic missiles that posed a threat to U.S. forces and merchant ships.

The Houthis had previously been designated a foreign terrorist organization by former President Donald Trump's administration shortly before he left office on Jan. 10, 2021, saying that the group receives drones, missiles and training form Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

However, President Joe Biden's administration removed the designation within a month of taking office.


Yemen has been submerged in civil war since 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital of Sana'a. Since then, the Houthis have been fighting the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition forces.

Latest Headlines